Monday, 1 November 2010

South Wales Networking Groups

There are 85+ networks in South Wales I picked up somewhere in my business travels. I deal with business finance development and business strategy development. Not a shameless plug altogether, my point is that the business planning for growth and development requires experience and a knowledge of networking as one of the sub headings under that all embracing term "Marketing". You need all that in place to get the finance sorted by which time you have a plan to put into action. 
My view is that there is not one answer. Some networks work best when you have a business that is easily pigeon holed by everyone else (accurately or not - doesn't matter, you can sort that out later). Others don't. 

Then again if you like a strong systematic approach you will feel more comfortable in some groups more than others. 
My own loyalty goes first to ABC - Action Business Club. (www.actionbusinessclub.co.uk) You have some businesses there who are very experienced and can operate on different levels as required to service the needs of the business customer. To say it was best suited to 'small businesses' might give a false impression but small business SMEs definition:  under 250 employees? - oh yes. Small businesses just starting out? Yes, if you are serious about what you do. 
The light hearted way it is conducted encourages friendship and respect for bright people who are happy in their work and confident in the trust of their colleagues. I would (and do) happily work with any one of them and I can't say that about every group I go to. 
So which one is best? The answer depends. When I am helping a business who is new to networking the first questions are about what they expect to get out of it. Their answer tells me if they understand it. If they do the one(s) to attend depend on the nature of their business but also the attitude and character of the attendee. It is more complicated than it appears but it does not need to be difficult.

It is vital to understand the essence of networking and incidentally this applies to online Social Networks, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and the like. If you feel you want to ask what was my return on that meeting then you havent understood the nature of what you are supposed to be doing. If you feel you have a room full of punters when you go to a meeting then you have misunderstood it and you will do little more than mark yourself down as someone to avoid. Measure you r Return on Investmentover 20 meetings or so but be careful to estimate the worth of someone acknowledging your introduction with I have heard about you.
The whole business of getting your business known is not straight forward. It needs a mixture of resources and approaches. 
For those just starting out it is worth a hundred cul de sacs to get help from the beginning to plan your marketing and this part of it in particular. At Bob Shepherd Associates we have a particular interest in start up businesses (no bad habits!). It need not cost a lot to get appropriate guidance and the saving in time effort and practical application (therefore that 'return on investment' we were so worried about in the paragraph above) should show dividends in due course.              

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